Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, making it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. It is a decentralized network based on blockchain technology, a distributed ledger that is implemented by a disparate network of computers. Cryptocurrencies are not issued by any central authority, making them theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation. They promise to facilitate the transfer of funds directly between two parties, without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or credit card company. Instead, these transfers are secured through the use of public and private keys and different forms of incentive systems, such as Proof of Work or Proof of Stake.
In modern cryptocurrency systems, a user's wallet, or account address, has a public key, while the private key is known only to the owner and is used to sign transactions. Fund transfers are completed with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the high fees charged by banks and financial institutions for bank transfers. Cryptocurrency is a digital payment system that does not rely on banks to verify transactions. It is a peer-to-peer system that allows anyone anywhere to send and receive payments. Rather than being physical money that is carried and exchanged in the real world, cryptocurrency payments exist purely as digital entries in an online database that describe specific transactions.
When funds are transferred in cryptocurrencies, the transactions are recorded in a public ledger. You store your cryptocurrency in a digital wallet. A cryptocurrency is a collection of binary data that is designed to function as a medium of exchange. Records of ownership of individual coins are stored in a ledger, which is a computerised database that uses strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins and to verify the transfer of coin ownership. Cryptocurrencies are generally fiat currencies, as they are not backed by or convertible into a commodity.
Some cryptocurrency schemes use validators to hold the cryptocurrency. In a proof-of-stake model, owners put up their tokens as collateral. In return, they get authority over the token in proportion to the amount they stake. Generally, these token owners gain additional ownership in the token over time through network fees, newly minted tokens or other reward mechanisms. Cryptocurrencies do not exist in physical form (like paper money) and are not usually issued by a central authority. They typically use decentralised control as opposed to a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
When implemented with decentralised control, each cryptocurrency operates through a distributed ledger technology, typically a blockchain, which serves as a public database of financial transactions. You may be familiar with the most popular versions, Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are more than 5,000 different cryptocurrencies in circulation, according to CoinLore. A blockchain is a decentralised record of all transactions in a peer-to-peer network. Using this technology, participants can confirm transactions without the need for a central clearing authority. Potential applications can include fund transfers, transaction settlement, voting and many other issues.